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Weinstein and Trump

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President Donald Trump and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, with Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman in 2009. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

This morning Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison, after having been found guilty of committing a very tiny fraction of the sexual assaults he has actually committed.

A few points:

(1) That Weinstein has committed a very large number of sexual assaults was an open secret in his social circles. Indeed to call it a “secret” is stretching that word almost past the breaking point. He got away with being a serial sex assaulter because the society he lived in decided he could, until more or less suddenly it decided he couldn’t.

(2) That Donald Trump has committed a very large number of sexual assaults is also an “open secret,” in the same sense of something not actually being a secret. He continues to get away with being a serial sex assaulter because the society he lives in continues to decide that he can.

(3) Empirical and moral guilt is a different matter from legal guilt. The fact that it’s impossible (for now) to hold Trump accountable in a criminal court for his sex assaults should have literally no bearing whatsoever on how he should be treated outside of that context, which is as a serial sex assaulter, because that’s what everyone either knows, or chooses not to know, he is.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is an appropriate maxim for a criminal trial. Guilty because we know he’s guilty is an appropriate maxim, in the world outside of criminal courts, for dealing with people like Weinstein and Trump, whether or not they’ve been held to account by those courts.

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